The most beautiful palaces featured on this list are the result of years of meticulous research into the world’s most significant and most famous palace collections. To compile this list, we researched the architecture, interior design, art, and decorative details of every palace, château, and chalet on the list.
We scoured historical records, museum websites, and published books to determine what makes each palace or chalet special. We even considered the number of rooms that make up each palace, château, or chalet.
From the Great Hall of Versailles to the Grand Ballroom of the White House, each palace and château featured here represents a style of architecture, a period of history, and a period of design.
Enjoy these must-see palaces and château highlights, and see how they compare to your own favorite palace or chalet.
1. Forbidden City
The Forbidden City, also known as the Imperial Palace, or Zhengyi Guan, was the seat of the imperial government of the Ming and Qing dynasties and later the Republic of China. At its height in the 16th century, it was the largest palace in the world and was home to the Chinese Emperors from 1406 until 1912, when the last Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Pu Yi, abdicated.
After the fall of the Qing dynasty and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the Forbidden City was taken over by the government and turned into a museum, and its complex of buildings, courtyards and gardens were opened to the public.
In 2008, it was designated a World Heritage Site. The complex, the second-largest in the world after the Vatican, covers more than 580,000 m2 and was built as a fortress and residence of the emperors of China, covering an area of almost 1000 acres. The Hall of Supreme Harmony’s main building is a massive, six-story stone edifice covered in over 8,000 square meters of gold leaf.
2. Winter Palace
In the heart of the city, the Winter Palace is a symbol of the grandeur of the Russian Empire, one of the world’s great empires. The palace was built between 1744 and 1756 by the architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. It was completed in 1763.
After the revolution in 1917, the Winter Palace was used by the provisional government of Russia as the seat of the Petrograd Soviet until the Bolsheviks took control. During the Second World War, the building was occupied by German troops.
Today, the Winter Palace is home to the world-famous Saint Petersburg Museum and hosts exhibitions of works by many of the world’s greatest artists. The museum also contains the world’s largest collection of paintings by Peter the Great.
The Winter Palace is a symbol of the grandeur of the Russian Empire.
Alhambra, or ‘the red palace’, is one of the most famous and stunning of the Moorish palaces in Granada, Spain. It was built by the Almohad ruler Abu Yaqub Yusuf in the 12th century and remained in the hands of the Moors until 1492.
Alhambra was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 and has been in the news ever since, with many people claiming it to be the most beautiful palace in the world. The Alhambra is located in the province of Granada, Spain, and is famous for its many gardens and the spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
In the mid-12th century, the ruler of Granada, the Nasrid king, Yusuf Ibn ‘Abd al-Haqq, commissioned the construction of the Alhambra palace. In the following centuries, the palace underwent several transformations, resulting in a complex of buildings of varying architectural styles.
The name Alhambra comes from the Arabic word ‘al-hamra’, meaning ‘red’, referring to the color of the building’s facades. The Alhambra palace is divided into three parts: the central section, the Royal Palace, and the Generalife Gardens.
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4. Palace of Versailles
Built in the early 18th century by Louis XIV, the Palace of Versailles was one of the grandest palaces ever seen. It was initially a simple hunting lodge, but Louis XIV embellished and enlarged it before eventually turning it into his royal residence and the seat of his government.
After the French Revolution, many of its most precious artworks and treasures were removed and placed in the Louvre, and the palace was left to decay.
Today, extensive renovations and restorations have seen the palace returned to its former glory. Its rooms are filled with the furnishings of the Sun King’s lavish court, and its magnificent gardens with their fantastic fountains and flowerbeds, are also well exploring.
Due to all the world-changing events that have taken place in its shining halls, the Palace of Versailles is one of the nation’s most important historical, cultural, and architectural treasures.
5. Topkapi Palace – Most Beautiful Palaces in The World
Topkapi Palace is a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. It was initially built for Sultan Mehmet II, the Conqueror, and is now a museum.
It is situated in the Beykoz neighborhood of Fatih, along the Bosphorus, and is one of the best-preserved examples of Ottoman architecture.
The palace was originally built as a residence but became the center of the Ottoman administration under the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. It is one of the best-preserved examples of Ottoman architecture.
It is home to several museums, including the Topkapi Palace Museum, which houses the museum collections.
Topkapi Palace is a huge and ornate palace that was originally built for Sultan Mehmet II, known as the Conqueror, to serve as his residence and place of government.
6. Hawa Mahal
Famous for its elaborate and ornate facade, Hawa Mahal delightfully translates to ‘the Palace of Winds’ in English. Completed in 1799, its pretty pillars, attractive arches, and dignified domes are mostly fashioned out of the wonderful red and pink sandstone that Jaipur is so renowned for.
While the palace has some lovely buildings and courtyards for visitors to explore, as well as a fantastic archaeological museum, its honeycomb-like exterior attracts the most attention. Set over five floors, the beautiful bays with their colored glass windows and intricate latticework look incredible and highlight any visit to the palace.
7. Chateau de Chambord
In the late 1500s, French king Francis I ordered a new chateau to be built in the Loire Valley. This magnificent building, Chateau de Chambord, was completed on September 6, 1519. It is situated within the beautiful Loire Valley and surrounded by rolling hills and dense forests.
Chateau de Chambord was commissioned by Francis I, who wanted a luxurious and secluded place for himself and his friends to relax. He had been a passionate hunter and the new chateau was meant to be a hunting lodge.
The chateau was designed in the Italian Renaissance style, combining the classical and Gothic styles. The front of the chateau consists of a row of large windows, which are topped by small arches. These arches are supported by four columns.
The central tower of the chateau rises to the height of the roof and is flanked on both sides by smaller towers. The main entrance to the chateau lies on the western side, and there are two symmetrical wings on either side of the central tower.
The chateau is located within the Loire Valley, where most of the chateau’s furnishings and decorations originated.
The chateau’s interiors are a combination of gothic and renaissance styles. The rooms in the chateau are decorated with rich tapestries, paintings, and sculptures. There are three reception rooms and several guest suites in the chateau.
In the 18th century, the French monarchy began to take a keen interest in the chateau and several works of art were taken from the chateau. These included a statue of Apollo, which is now kept in the Louvre Museum in Paris, and several pieces of furniture.
8. Potala Palace
The Potala Palace is a multi-domed building in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, China. It is the seat of the Dalai Lama and the official residence of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
It was built in the 17th century by the third Dalai Lama, Tsongkhapa, and is the largest and best preserved of the three remaining examples of the Potala Palace.
The palace is located in the Marpo Ri area of Lhasa, at the base of the Marpo Ri hill.
9. Schonbrunn Palace
Schonbrunn Palace, a beautiful historic palace and park in the suburbs of Vienna, is one of Austria’s most popular tourist attractions. It is the former summer residence of the Hapsburgs and the birthplace of the current head of the House of Hapsburg, Emperor Franz Josef I, who was born there in 1835.
Today, the palace houses the world’s most extensive collection of paintings, including works by Raphael, Rubens, Titian, and Van Dyck.
The palace is open to the public and has a number of rooms and halls open to the public. Its gardens are filled with beautiful flowers, plants, and fruit trees.
10. Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace in London has long been the residence of the British monarchs. Originally built in 1703 to be a large townhouse, it was slowly enlarged and redesigned over the years, with its famous facade added in 1911.
In total, the palace boasts 775 rooms, many of them replete with fabulous furnishings, exquisite paintings, and age-old statues. Of these, the most impressive are the staterooms. These are open to the public each August and September and are where visiting heads of state stay in London.
11. Palais des Papes
Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) is a Gothic palace in the town of Avignon, France. It is the official residence of the Archbishop of Avignon.
The palace was built during the 13th century when the city was the seat of the Pope. It was the largest Gothic palace in Europe during the Middle Ages but was primarily left untouched until the 18th century. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a number of medieval and Renaissance buildings inside and outside.
It is currently the seat of the Archdiocese of Avignon and the official residence of the Archbishop of Avignon.
12. Mysore Palace
Mysore Palace was built to house the royal family of the Mysore dynasty. The palace was originally constructed in 1760. However, the present structure dates back to the early 19th century. The palace has many imposing rooms and a huge garden, which was laid out by a British landscape gardener named Joseph Bazalgette.
Today, the palace is the official residence of the Mysore Maharajas, and visitors can see some interesting features. The palace is home to a museum, which houses a collection of rare Indian paintings, sculptures, and other antiquities. The palace also has a library, where visitors can see a collection of rare books.
There are also several gardens around the palace. The Royal Botanical Garden of Mysore is the oldest botanical garden in Asia. It was founded in 1822, and the garden contains over 2,500 species of plants.
13. Peterhof Palace
Peterhof Palace certainly rivals the Sun King’s royal residence in terms of its size, scale and splendor.
Sprawling over a vast area, the palace and its landscaped gardens are set on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, just outside of Saint Petersburg.
Built between 1709 and 1756, the extravagant palace was commissioned by Peter the Great to symbolize and highlight the modernization and westernization of Russia.
As such, each room is more exquisitely designed and decorated than the last, with the Throne Room and Chesma Hall being two of the most impressive.
Outside is just as astonishing; there are endless fountains, flowerbeds for visitors to wander around, and the fittingly named Grand Cascade. An artistic and architectural marvel, the Peterhof Palace complex is not to be missed out on.
14. Lake Palace
Located in the heart of the ancient city of Udaipur, Lake Palace offers an idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. This palatial hotel is the epitome of luxury, offering exquisite rooms, suites, and beautiful views of the lake and the city.
Each of the rooms and suites are decked out with sumptuous furnishings, and some of them have private plunge pools. The hotel also offers excellent dining options, including a restaurant with a stunning view of the lake and a rooftop lounge where you can relax with a cocktail.
A visit to Lake Palace will allow you to discover more about the culture and history of Udaipur and the surrounding areas. It’s also the perfect place to visit during the monsoon season when the weather in the city is cooler and the lakeside atmosphere is even more enchanting.
15. Grand Palace
Bangkok has become the global hub for the arts, and the Grand Palace, with its extensive collections and ornate buildings, is no exception. It’s the perfect place to explore the city’s rich cultural heritage.
The Grand Palace was initially built by King Taksin as a residence and a base for his military campaigns. The present structure was built in the late 18th century and covers about 30 acres.
Today the palace houses a collection of art and artifacts from around the world, including priceless Buddhist art and sculptures.